Cynthia Butare on her journey into filmmaking
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Cynthia Butare’s passionate interest in media production led her to studying and graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Digital Media and Communications and an MA in Documentary Practice.
Her first documentary ‘Kickin It with the Kinks’ which tackles the love and hate relationship that women from the African descent have with their hair, has been screened in several countries across the globe. She shared with Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa her journey to filmmaking and blogging.
When and how did you know that your hands were gifted?
I started drawing at a young age though my art was not different from other children, however in 2016, I tried
When and how did you get involved in filmmaking?
My journey into film-making has been an erratic one. Though I started film-making in 2011, it is only of recent that I can comfortably say that I am a filmmaker. In 2011, I bought my first camera to shoot my documentary ‘Kickin It with the Kinks’, which was part of my degree program in Digital Communication in the UK.
As we were allowed to choose a topic of our choice, I picked a topic that truly interested me at that time and did a documentary on black women’s relationship with their hair. It was my first attempt at film-making, so I wasn’t expecting to have the best mark in my class.
The project went through series of screenings for the following 2 years in the UK, US, Canada, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Nigeria, Zambia, Namibia and Rwanda. Being my first attempt in the media industry, it was a challenging experience but then I decided to practice my skills, made shorter content on YouTube and went for my master’s program in documentary-making to learn the craft.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Moving to Rwanda, where I had never lived before and make a living as a videographer. That’s the only thing I am good at. This is how I can be helpful.
I officially registered this venture in 2016 and run my own company, CB Production, although I had to adapt to the market and offer different materials, such as shooting weddings, business profiles and other types of content that clients would want to use as a marketing tool.
What has been your biggest filmmaking accomplishment and why?
My first documentary ‘Kickin’ it with the Kinks.’ For something I conceptualised, filmed and edited with no financial assistance and absolutely zero experience in the field, the impact was simply immense.
Even if the nature of my work today has changed, this project has been a stepping-stone to understanding that the best impact is made when an idea comes from a place of true authenticity. That’s valid for documentaries but as much important for businesses and their web content.
What inspired your blog and what has been its impact?
I started blogging in 2003, as a teenager living in Switzerland. It was a great way to connect with fellow Rwandans living abroad on issues and experiences. I then stopped after 3 years and restarted in 2012, while I was living in the UK slightly after premiering ‘Kickin’ it with the Kinks’. I also wanted to explore the creation of bite- sized videos (shorter pieces of content).
In 2013, I received the Award for Best Blog of The Year by the BEFFTA (Black Entertainment, Fashion, Film, Television and Arts) but paused before moving to Rwanda in 2014. I am currently in the process of coming up with a new blog to share what I know in videography but also in content creation and social media strategies.
I would like to share what I know, strengthen my knowledge but also show that there are ways to get our content out there without having a big budget. The web has profoundly impacted the way we consume information that content creators can bring the content themselves to their audiences. Tied to that, the formats are not so rigid anymore. It’s all about making pieces of content that are relevant to an audience.
Is there anything that filmmaking has taught you?
Good storytelling is about connecting to one another. Then if audiences can relate to a story, we can get them to care. If we can get them to care, then we can get them to think. And if we can get them to think, we can get them to act. It is a powerful tool.
Filmmaking-wise, where do you see yourself in five years to come?
Video storytelling is complementary with many other forms of communication from photography, graphic design, to animation. Therefore, I see myself working on bigger multi-media type of projects. For that, I need to keep working on conceptualization.
A video’s success and virality depends on its intelligibility and cohesiveness which requires being good at researching, concept writing, storyboarding, and planning, which are needed to get a coherent ensemble of information and one clear brand message. That way, I would be able to respond better to clients’ needs.
If you could offer one tip to aspiring filmmakers, what could it be?
It’s all about the storytelling. Expensive cameras or expensive pieces of gear will bring you the aesthetic but focusing on that aspect only will make your content empty. Audiences need to connect to you, in a meaningful way.
Nonetheless, the technical part is still important, that will come gradually. But you will learn with time how to adapt your technical skills to the story you want to tell.